Record Label: RCA
Their prospects dangerously over-inflated by pundits who often hailed their debut as nothing short of rock-messianic, New York City's Strokes got a lesson in cynical rock-press dynamics when their biz-troubled, if similarly toned, 2003 sophomore set was dutifully dismissed as the proverbial sophomore slump. A lesser band might have been chastened by the experience; this one responded with a third album that positively bristles with energetic challenges. Revolving around a loose concept that allows songwriter/frontman Julian Casablancas to adopt a viewpoint that's as detached as it is world-weary and bemused, it's a record that quickly trades the often precious production conceits of its forebears for a muscular confidence that's notable from the infectious, back-to-the-80s opener 'You Only Live Once' to its perfect bookend 'Red Light.'
That often inviting sonic remodeling may come in part from Bangles/Sublime/Sugar Ray producer David Kahne (who replaces previous collaborator Gordon Raphael on all but a handful of cuts), but the band clearly has expansiveness on its mind, from a running length nearly twice its predecessors to such stylistic excursions as the cinematic, back-to-the-future riffing of the single 'Juicebox,' the spare, electro-baroque moodiness of 'Ask Me Anything,' and the dense, surprising prog flirtations of 'Electrocityscape.' 'On the Other Side' finds Casablancas convincingly casting himself as the anti-Bono while crooning 'I hate them, I hate them all, I hate myself for hating them' before chiding humanity as 'seven billion people who've got nothing to say' on the otherwise upbeat closer, 'Red Light.'